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Bee Inspired celebrates grand opening in Gallatin

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Bee Inspired...house to home owners Mary Lee Wilkes and daughter Stephany Wilkes opened the home decorating store on North Water Avenue in June. JOSH CROSS

One of downtown Gallatin's newest businesses aims to make home decorating more personal by breathing new life into antique furniture.

Bee Inspired...house to home, located at 223 North Water Ave., celebrated its opening with a ribbon cutting Wednesday along with special grand opening sales this weekend.

"We are trying to challenge people to be unique," said Mary Lee Wilkes, who co-owns the business with her daughter Stephany Wilkes. "(Customers) don't come in to find a piece just like the girl next door has. We try to help them find something that makes their home special."

The store offers a variety of new and renewed home décor items, which include restyled furniture, antiques, decorative accessories and gifts. The merchandise is individually picked by the owners and come from various places like estate sales and auctions from Tennessee to Ohio.

Before being placed on display to sell, each piece is thoroughly inspected and any repair work is completed. Customers can have furniture repainted to the color of their choice and other restyling work can also be done.

"Even though the basic box of the piece of furniture is the same, the style in some can still be changed," said Stephany Wilkes while pointing out how new glass and stainless steel grill-work was added to a hutch before it went on sale.

"You could be inspired to use something maybe you got from your mother or your grandmother and kind of marry all of those different styles together to kind of make it your own style."

In addition to giving new life to some of the items inside the store, Bee Inspired has also done the same for its current location at the corner of North Water Avenue and Broadway. The space was previously home to Grapevine Books, which closed in late 2016 after 17 years in business.

"The addition of Bee Inspired brings even more vibrancy and life to our growing downtown area," said Kim Baker, CEO of the Gallatin Area Chamber of Commerce. "We are glad to have another retailer packed full of fun finds you don't have to leave Gallatin to obtain."

Unexpected reunion

Prior to opening Bee Inspired, Mary Lee Wilks owned a high-end antique shop on West Main Street that she ran for nearly a decade before closing it due to health reasons in the early 2000's.

The Gallatin native, who later sold items at various booths in malls, "never dreamed" at the time that she would open another store, especially with her daughter who moved away after high school.

"I had never really lived in Tennessee as an adult," said Stephany Wilkes, who moved from Ohio to Gallatin in 2015. "We decided to come back so that I could spend time with mom and dad since I'd been away for so long. (Home decorating) was something I liked to do, my mom liked to do and it was something that we could do together."

The duo began looking at locations for Bee Inspired last fall and signed a lease for the store's current space in February. After three months of renovation work, the shop opened in early June.

While opening Bee Inspired and continuing to run the store each week can be tiring at times, Mary Lee Wilkes said she's happy to have a store back open in Gallatin.

"I don't know how long I'll work, but right now I'm enjoying every minute of it," she said with a smile. "I really enjoy being with (Stephany) during the day. I like it here better than the nursing home."

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